Since students come from a variety of backgrounds and are at different points in their learning, reflective activities allow them to process questions individually and with sufficient depth. The activities here prompt students to consider their relationships to social identity, structural oppression, and intergroup dialogue.

Growth Mindset Activity for STEM

Previous research has shown that socio-psychological interventions are effective at mitigating some of the negative factors, such as stereotype threat, that result in racial, gender, and first generation achievement gaps in STEM classrooms. Growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be developed through strategic efforts and hard work and are not simply innate or fixed. Growth mindset is especially important for members of social groups that are negatively stereotyped by harmful and inaccurate messages about the innate intelligence or abilities needed to succeed in STEM disciplines. This activity has STEM students write or discuss the science behind intelligence and its development to instill a growth mindset in students.

Invisible Knapsacks

This activity has students read Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” to familiarize themselves with examples of oppression that they do not experience based on skin color. Students form small groups based on six types of privilege: ability, Christian in the U.S., cisgender, man, socioeconomic status, and U.S. citizenship. Students are asked to join a small group based on a privilege that they hold. This discussion-based activity guides students in understanding privilege as a concept and helps students recognize how their own privileges benefit them and impact daily life.

Dialogue Blocker Activity

In this activity, students analyze the dialogue blockers present in “Post Mortem: A Conversation Gone Wrong.” The instructor can use this discussion of dialogue blockers to guide students in constructing classroom norms and ground rules that will support an inclusive learning environment. This activity helps students recognize common dialogue blockers, consider why people use them, and become more aware of how they inhibit important conversations.

Dominant Narratives

This page provides a discussion-based lesson plan on dominant narratives. A dominant narrative is an explanation or story that is told in service of the dominant social group’s interest and ideologies. Dominant narratives usually achieve dominance through repetition, the apparent authority of the speaker, and the silencing of alternative accounts. In this activity, instructors ask students to analyze distant or contemporary dominant narratives as a class. Once students understand what a dominant narrative is and how it functions, they share additional examples of dominant narratives. This discussion guide helps students recognize dominant narratives, how they are perpetuated, and how and whom they benefit/harm.

Perfectly Logical Explanations

This discussion guide shows instructors how to engage with dominant narratives and “perfectly logical explanations” (PLEs). Dominant narratives are well-known and widely accepted explanations or narratives that are typically in service of the interests and ideologies of dominant social groups. Those who use dominant narratives employ PLEs to provide context and justify their perspective in order to avoid being judged. The guide below is focused on a discussion about video games, but it is designed to exemplify the types of questions that could be raised to critically interrogate any dominant narrative. This activity helps students recognize the weight and power of dominant narratives and teaches students how to rigorously interrogate dominant narratives.

Mapping Social Identity Timeline Activity

This activity asks students to create a timeline of their lives, noting particular lessons they have learned about some aspect of their social identity (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). When completing this activity, students can refer to the Cycle of Socialization handout, which offers a diagram to represent the socio-cultural construction of social identities. Both the timeline and handout allow students to reflect on the ways in which students reinforce or challenge the socio-cultural construction of identities.

School You, Inc.

This activity asks students to create an imaginary school designed to maintain oppressive norms. Students will consider what institutional oppression looks like and how it is perpetuated in subtle ways. A debriefing discussion will take place after the activity, encouraging students to compare their imaginary school to their own institution. Students will also brainstorm ways in which they can resist and challenge the oppressive norms they’ve identified.